Julius Randle isn’t playing like an MVP candidate or even an All-Star this season. Knicks fans, a savvy lot that they are, recognize that.
They also can recognize when their team is getting drilled, as the Knicks were by the Celtics on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The locals gave Randle and everyone else on the court wearing a home uniform an earful in the second half.
Randle wasn’t thrilled about that.
That explains why he went full Met during the Knicks’ thrilling fourth-quarter comeback. The veteran forward dipped into the Javier Baez-Francisco Lindor playbook and flashed a thumbs-down sign after cutting New York’s deficit to four points with a bucket. The Knicks won 108-105 after trailing by as many as 25 in the game. Randle finished with 22 points.
He had a profane response when New York Daily News reporter Stefan Bondy asked what was up (down?) with the hand gesture:
“Shut the f— up,” Randle replied. That was said toward the fans and not, as some on Twitter hoped, about Bondy.
Randle and the Knicks have earned boos with their play at times. The forward is still the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, but his production is down:
And his season on-off splits prior to Thursday were not favorable:
New York is 19-20 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference through Thursday. It’s a full game up on the Celtics for the final spot in the play-in tournament.
ALL-STAR VOTING: Takeaways from first fan vote returns
The good news for the team is the core of the roster that produced a 41-31 record and a No. 4 playoff seed a year ago is still around, although Derrick Rose is out long term with an ankle injury. The bad news is one of its leaders took time during a game to send a message to fans after saying a day earlier he doesn’t “give a f— what anybody has to say.”
Randle should have maintained that stance when things got rough Thursday. Rule of thumb: Fans aren’t going to be too nice about it when they tell you that you’re underperforming.